I have given my parents almost no anniversary cards over the years. Certainly no gifts or parties. I think once or twice I've sent an email congratulating them and saying... ya know, thanks? It was never really on our radar as kids, just something that was maybe mentioned around Thanksgiving every year -- my dad coming home with a card from the drugstore that he'd sign in a burst of emotion and present triumphantly to my mom, wanting simply to tell her he's glad she's here, glad she's always been here. We'd hear him say "Happy anniversary, Dear" -- and they'd hold each other close in our old kitchen while we, the fruits of their lasting marriage, focused on whatever else there was.
That's, at least, what I noticed. As most kids raised in nuclear families, we took the fact that they were still married, that they had ever gotten married, for granted. The idea that they had ever not known each other, had ever been anything other than our parents, a single unit, seems in my mind to have been nonexistent. Immaterial. Blank. There they were, and to change it would be to change the earth's orbit. To change it would be to change gravity.
Last weekend, my parents bought a motor home for little trips, particularly down to LA to visit their grandbaby. It's small, somewhat of an antique, let's say, but it's cozy and it's right. My dad brought me out in the cold last night to give me the grand tour (all 21 feet worth). We reached the back and I realized the toilet is there, out in the open as though the whole thing is one giant bathroom that happens to also have a table, sink and bed in it.
"Isn't there a door?" I asked. My dad slid said 'door' out from inside the wall -- it's really nothing more than a thin sheet of paper that doesn't even reach all the way across the opening. Surely, I suggested, one person would have to leave while the other person.. you know. My dad threw his hands up in the air and said loudly, his face incredulous, "We've been married 32 years! You close the door and what happens, happens."
This, I think, is marriage. At least, it's my parents' marriage. What I know is you can't stay bound to a person for 32 years without being able to let what happens, happen.
Last night, my dad did the same thing he's done many times before -- he ran out and bought a lovely card and bouquet of flowers, laid on the sweetness when my mom came home and when he said "Happy anniversary, Dear" there was a brief moment of confusion when it became clear that my dad had the date wrong. "Thanksgiving threw me off!" he said. This year their anniversary, November 25th, falls on Thanksgiving day and that just didn't sound right to him, so in his mind, the 24th it became. An honest mistake, really.
We all had a laugh, but in the end it's not really about the anniversary of a little wedding that happened a long time ago, it's about every single moment since.